This story originally appeared in Bridges, MSK’s newsletter for cancer survivors. Bridges offers a forum in which patients and their families can share stories of inspiration and hope, and of the challenges that can accompany a cancer journey. Learn more about how to receive Bridges and how to submit your story here.
During an overnight big-game-fishing tournament on August 15, 2012, I fell into a cabinet when a large wave violently shoved the boat sideways. I thought surely I had broken some ribs or worse because of the amount of pain I felt that night and on the slow 65-mile ride back to port.
Upon my return I had x-rays and a sonogram at a local hospital and was assured that there was no damage to my organs and no bone fractures. However, I was cautioned that it may take a very long time to completely heal.
Since I still had much pain near the end of November, my better and smarter half suggested that I visit my urologist because of a history of kidney stones. Of course, like some husbands do, I finally took my wife’s suggestion.
At a visit with my urologist to review a scan he had ordered, I heard the words no patient ever wants to hear: “I have some good news and some bad news.” He then said, “I can easily take care of your kidney stone, but you need to see a surgeon about the mass on your pancreas.”
A Bit about My Cancer
My diagnosis occurred in November 2012, and my first pancreatic cancer surgery, a radical distal pancreatectomy, was done the day after Christmas 2012 at a hospital other than Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Not long after my first surgery, chemotherapy treatments began at MSK, and following a recurrence of cancer in 2015, all further treatment has been done at MSK. As you can see, November 2017 marks my five-year survivorship of pancreatic cancer, and as a result, I have really gotten to know many MSK employees.
As a former labor leader in the construction industry, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for employees. Wherever I am doing business, I have a terrible habit of prying into the worker-employer relationship. There are businesses that simply don’t get my patronage if the employees are not respected and treated fairly.
Of course, I pried into the work lives of nearly everyone I encountered as an inpatient and outpatient during my ongoing treatment at MSK.
When I asked, “How long have you worked with Sloan?” or “What’s it like working here?”, it pleased me that each and every MSK employee, from porters, greeters, transporters, and aides to nurses and doctors (maybe 150 to 200 in all), indicated, “I love working here.” For the last five years, I have not hesitated to tell others about my journey with hopes that it may be helpful to them or someone they love, should they hear the dreadful message, “You’ve got cancer.”
In addition to receiving the very best lifesaving treatment at MSK, it always gives me great joy to share so many stories, like hearing the heartfelt words of the greeters when entering or leaving the building, receiving the assistance provided when getting on and off the MSK shuttle service, and always for hearing the words, “I love working here.”
Surely that’s because they have all been respected and valued by their employer and the patients they care for!
To all of you at Memorial Sloan Kettering, thank you from the bottom of my heart!